As news of Friday’s plane crash started to spread, so did photos and videos of the crash site. This sparked a debate on social media where people discussed whether it was okay to share the footage, passenger manifest of names and the pilot’s May-Day call to the control room.
Many expressed outrage at the media’s insensitivity and wondered if this was a cheap shot to get the highest ratings. Several tweeted @reportpemra to hold TV channels and websites accountable. To many, this was triggering as they had seen it all before with the Air Blue crash.
Dua Rehman was monitoring social media very closely on Friday. Her grandfather was on board the PIA flight. She tweeted about what her family was going through and asked the media to stop sensationalizing their grief. “I have to depend on the news and on social media right now. When they use phrases like ‘zindagi ka chirag bhuj gaya’ and ‘seconds from meeting their families’ while my mother is waiting to hear any news of my grandfather, it tears her apart. Please stop sensationalizing our grief,” she said.
“If a grieving family has to watch the news on mute to get some news about their loved one & ask the vulnerable to turn away from the screen so that if there is any news you can tell them without them suffering through hours of sensational footage, you’re doing something wrong.”
She said people should refrain from making inconsiderate comments and let the authorities do their work. “Both the pilots were his colleagues and professionally sound so blaming those who aren’t there anymore to defend themselves isn’t the best thing to do.”
Other people tweeted how it was unethical to scavenge from a victim’s social media account photos and run them without the family’s permission.
According to Arhum, this was a time to rethink the ethics of reporting on personal tragedies. “As someone who has no link to the crash I feel devastated following the news/social media I cannot fathom what the families have to endure because people want to be first to report or get 15 minutes of fame,” he tweeted.
Commenting on Arhum’s tweet, Sana R said: “What is the difference between journalists and vultures here, and I hope my journalist friends can forgive the bitterness in the question. Leaking the distress call, passenger list, making claims & then posing to also be the authority on the ethics allowed…did your heart die…?”
She added that she hated the way the tragedy was covered. “It’s so careless and triggering. Maybe it was this, maybe it was that. Just shut up and investigate and then say the confirmed thing. Don’t broadcast the entire passenger list. There are survivors. There are dead. Please, have a heart.”
Another person tweeted: “Can someone get these vultures to stop sharing the passenger list? As we speak, these ‘journos’ will be racing to these people’s homes to ask them how they feel.”
Saalar, the son of a pilot, tweeted about “keyboard warriors jumping to conclusions”. “My dad who flies the Airbus A320 with PIA, the same aircraft involved in the crash, hasn’t made any comment on the crash because it’s too early to even make an assumption about whose fault it could be. While all I see on social media is keyboard warriors jumping to conclusions.”
A Twitter user commented on the May-Day call being made accessible to the public over WhatsApp and news websites. “I don’t understand the point of making public the conversation between a pilot who passed away in a tragic incident and the control tower. What purpose does it serve other than sensationalism? What is the general public, who cannot even understand that conversation, gaining?”
A thread by journalist Sahar Habib Ghazi took the Twitter debate into account and broke it down for her followers and explained why she waited before sharing the news.